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Barrows with stone ranges of the Tasmola culture

Date of Submission: 24/09/1998
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Institute of Archaeology, Ministry of Science - Academy of Sciences
Coordinates: separate sites locatud in Karaganda, Akmola, Pavlodar regions, 48°-51°N, 71°-78° E
Ref.: 1133
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The relics of the Tasmola culture belong to the Saka period (VII-III BC) and most of them are located in the same area of the precedent Begazy-Dandybai culture, in picturesque valleys surrounded by mountains, in Central Kazakhstan.

The main monuments of the culture are stone complexes having as dominant characters: one up to four stone barrows, accompanied by menhirs, single or in group, and by two curved stone ranges ('moustaches') 50-200 m. long, departing from the barrows and going east. This last element is an exclusive feature of the Tasmola culture. The barrow, when single, contains always pottery, traces of fire and horse skeletons, but never human remains. The beginning and the end of the stones' ranges show alignments with equinoctial, solstitial and / or midsummer sunrise points.

The monuments are often located near barrows with burials of noblemen and priests, but also near burials of ordinary people, settlements and mines, so their function doesn't seem to be specifically funerary. Their main elements suggest the possibility that they have been ritually built by the first steppe nomads during grandiose celebrations and horse sacrifices. The new religious syncretism between sun, horse, fire and hero-ancestors is the ideological reflection of the socio-economical changes that happened in the steppes at the beginning of the I° millennium and that survived until our century: the establishment of the pastoralist nomadic way of life based on horse riding and long-range annual transurnances, and its social regulation by tribal confederation and aristocratic stratification. The barrows with stone ranges of Tasmola are representing the first turning point of this immense historical process.

About 300 barrows with stone ranges have been found in Kazakhstan. Only few of them have been archaeologically excavated. The 75% are concentrated in the territory under consideration; the others spread in every direction in the other regions of the country, showing the power of diffusion of the Tasmola culture.